A Tribute to a Friend – Dr. Larry Crabb

It was a time to pivot, change, alter course. Dr. Larry Crabb met me at the junction. Larry went to be with his Papa, Jesus, and Spirit on Sunday, February 28, 2021.

There are times I believe that God brings people across our path that have a long-lasting impact on our journey.

I had just begun my pastoral ministry in 1998. I had the role of being a Community Chaplain in a large church where my focus was to provide pastoral care for those in our local area that had significant Mental Illnesses and disabilities.

I was to develop a church community where people could come and feel at home. Teaching, pastoral care, and support that was specifically focused on the needs of this community.

Prior to this, I had been a support worker helping people with serious Mental Illnesses with their daily lives.

Over and over again, I would see them try to be part of Church communities only to see them not truly connect.

Some church people would rescue them, preach at them, moralize them, and tell them to ‘try harder.’

In the end, Churches and the people in them weren’t safe.

I was then handed a book by a former student of Dr. Larry Crabb. The book was Connecting. Healing Ourselves and Our Relationships

In this book, Larry also talks about a pivot in this thinking. A subtle shift away from psychology to what he would later call Soul Care.

In recent days, I have made a shift. I am now working toward the day when communities of God’s people, ordinary Christians whose lives regularly intersect, will accomplish most of the good that we now depend on mental health professionals to provide. And they will do it by connecting with each other in ways that only the gospel makes possible.

I envision a community of people who intentionally mingle in settings where these nutrients are passed back and forth, where I pour into you the healing resources within me and you pour into me what God has put in you.

But that’s not what I’m doing. I have strong reason to suspect that Christians sitting dutifully in church congregations, for whom “going to church” means doing a variety of spiritual activities, have been given resources that if released could powerfully heal broken hearts, overcome the damage done by abusive backgrounds, encourage the depressed to courageously move forward, stimulate the lonely to reach out, revitalize discouraged teens and children with new and holy energy, and introduce hope into the lives of the countless people who feel rejected, alone, and useless.

Maybe “going to church,” more than anything else, means relating to several people in your life differently. Maybe the center of Christian community is connecting with a few.

Beneath what our culture calls psychological disorder is a soul crying out for what only community can provide. There is no “disorder” requiring “treatment.” And, contrary to hard-line moralism, there is more to our struggles than a stubborn will needing firm admonishment. Beneath all our problems, there are desperately hurting souls that must find the nourishment only community can provide—or die.

We must do something other than train professional experts to fix damaged psyches. Damaged psyches aren’t the problem.

The problem beneath our struggles is a disconnected soul. And we must do something more than exhort people to do what’s right and then hold them accountable. Groups tend to emphasize accountability when they don’t know how to relate. Better behavior through exhortation isn’t the solution, though it sometimes is part of it. Rather than fixing psyches or scolding sinners, we must provide nourishment for the disconnected soul that only a community of connected people can offer.

The crisis of care in modern culture, especially in the Western church, will not be resolved by training more therapists.

We do not need a counseling center on every corner.

It will be worsened by moralists who never reach deeply into the hearts of people in their efforts to impose their standards of behavior on others, even when those standards are biblical.

The greatest need in modern civilization is the development of communities— true communities where the heart of God is home, where the humble and wise learn to shepherd those on the path behind them, where trusting strugglers lock arms with others as together they journey on. Dr. Larry Crabb. Connecting. Healing Ourselves and Our Relationships.

I was hooked.

He had connected with the thoughts and ideas swirling around in my thinking.

From there, I read everything I could lay my hands on. He was my mentor. I traveled from here in New Zealand to Colorado Springs twice to sit under his teaching.

I don’t believe anyone else has influenced me so greatly in my spiritual formation as Larry.

The picture that captures us

Recently there has been a huge outpouring of love and memories on the Larry Crabb Appreciation club. Images shared, and stories told.

One image speaks so much.

Larry Crabb by Janet Trenda

‘A sweet memory from my time at SSD [School of Spiritual Direction]- catching Larry early in the morning handwriting, rewriting- his notes for the day. His passion and dedication are clearly shown here’. Janet Trenda

A special memory for me was when I attended the School of Spiritual Direction in 2004 at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs.

I had a very special one-to-one session with Larry. I went into this lovely lounge where Larry took off his shoes, put his feet up on the coffee table, and we had a chat.

Then the thunder rolled. In those Rocky mountains, the thunderclaps were incredible. I have never heard thunder like it.

I don’t remember much of what was said, but I do remember the atmosphere Larry brought to our time. Relaxed, friendly, gently inquisitive, unforced, shoes off, and love.

Quotes

Over the years, I have collected many quotes from the writings of Larry Crabb. Many of which have been sp[rinkled through the blog posts.

Here are but a few.

    • Real encouragement occurs when words are spoken from a heart of love to another’s recognized fear. Larry Crabb
    • God has solutions for people who admit they have problems. Larry Crabb
    • Our primary purpose is not to use God to solve our problems, but to move through our problems toward finding God. Larry Crabb
    • A marriage bound together by commitments to exploit the other for filling one’s own needs (and I fear that most marriages are built on such a basis) can legitimately be described as a “tic on a dog” relationship.
      Just as a hungry tic clamps on to a nourishing host in anticipation of a meal, so each partner unites with the other in the expectation of finding what his or her personal nature demands.
      The rather frustrating dilemma, of course, is that in such a marriage there are two tics and no dog!
      Larry Crabb, The Marriage Builder
    • Spiritual friends see a facet of Christ in us and bring it out as no one else can. And they delight to do so. When they see what is unique about us, it causes them great delight; and then, giving away to the powers of daring imagination, they envision what we could become. The vision excites them – with Paul, they see us where we are and feel the pains of labor till Christ is formed in us (Gal. 4:19). Larry Crabb. The Safest Place on Earth
    • Brokenness is a condition, one that is always there, inside, beneath the surface, carefully hidden for as long as we can keep a facade in place. We live in brokenness. We just don’t always see it, either in ourselves or in others. Larry Crabb
    • A central task of community is to create a place that is safe enough for the walls to be torn down, safe enough for each of us to own, and reveal our brokenness. Larry Crabb
    • Supernatural goals need supernatural resources. Dr. Larry Crabb

    Larry Crabb Appreciation Club

    As an administrator of the Appreciation Club on Facebook, I recently asked the members for their favorite quotes and sentences.

    Here are a few of them.

  • Where is your red dot?
  • “Confused people listen better.”
  • May we learn to dance with the Trinity!
  • “Put Jesus on display.”
  • Make a Margin for Uncertainty: Open Heart: Women are created to be relationally open and inviting!
  • “Hush God is in it” by his late grandfather.
  • “We have all been sinned against. We all sin. You have failed to love me as you should, and I have failed to love you. Your failure to love me is painful, sometimes profoundly disappointing. But the Lord‘s love for me is perfect. Although his love does not remove the sting of your failure, it gives me all I need to stand as a whole person, capable of loving you regardless of the threat of your further failure.” From Inside Out. 
  • Too many marriages are like two ticks and no dog. 
  • God meets you where you really are – not where you think you should be.
  •  Words that open doors transmit two messages: 1.‘I am interested in whatever you have to say.’ 2.’I will accept you regardless of what you say.’” Larry Crabb
  • The greatest lie believed today is that one can know God without being known by someone else. Larry Crabb Soul Talk
  • The compelling vision is . . . maybe, because of our conversations, we can want God more than we want any lesser blessing. Larry Crabb 
  • “Demand nothing here. Expect everything there. Surrender all rights to justice, to loving treatment from others to fulfilling ministry, to all the good things of this life, and you will be given tastes of the good things to come. That is how you taste the Lord and discover that He is good. It is those tastes that fill you with sustaining hope until you’re welcomed to the banquet.” 
  • “Embrace your Inadequacy.”
  • “Your pain is the distance between what you were created to have, Eden, and what you have now. Our hearts groan in anticipation of what lies ahead, our true home, heaven.”

Larger Story

As part of planning to continue his legacy of teaching, a few years ago, Larry’s son Kep established a new ministry called Larger Story.

Larger Story will serve as the legacy of the thinking and writing and training and counseling I’ve been doing now for 50 years. Larry Crabb

At Larger Story, they have amassed the many books, countless sermons and talks, and numerous videos Larry has done.

Find out more about Larger Story here. 

Hot coffee and Elvis

A few final thoughts.

Larry liked his coffee hot!

He also enjoyed Elvis and slow dancing with his students while singing ‘Are you lonesome tonight.’

The final sentence in his last book ‘Waiting for Heaven‘ was this.

Over time, anticipate becoming aware of actually meeting Jesus, face to face, and allow the “sheer delight” to move you toward WAITING FOR HEAVEN.

Thank you, Larry. Enjoy the sheer delight of being with Jesus face to face.

Barry Pearman

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The Healing Nest of Kindness and Compassion

The Healing Nest of Kindness and Compassion

I need a nest that I can call home. Actually, digging down a little further, I need a grouping of relationships that know me, love me, and have compassion and kindness when I get things wrong.

The other day I was pruning a vine and there high above my head was a nest. It had long been vacated. I’m not sure what type of bird built this elaborate structure to raise its young, but as I looked closer, there was an intricate architecture to the design.

Twigs, grasses, moss, lichen all gathered and foraged from around the garden and woven into a home.

Here are some pictures of the nest.
Continue reading “The Healing Nest of Kindness and Compassion”

The Gentle Approach to Heart and Mind Change

The Gentle Approach to Heart and Mind Change

There is a gentle approach to how the heart and mind can change. Instead of the force of a flood, it’s a refreshing rain. Let’s learn to absorb the goodness.

There is something very special to me about a nice soft rain shower in the middle of a dry summer. It soaks in, and the soil receives it as a gift of gentleness.

I have been involved in land-based businesses for many years. Gardening, horticulture, and farming. It’s those sweet, gentle summer rains that bring such refreshment.

Being like a sponge, the soil soaks up every drop. Then the microbes, fungi, bacteria, worms, and all the unseen world beneath our feet are replenished. Seeds germinate, trees flush with newness, and the land feels like it has been gently washed. Continue reading “The Gentle Approach to Heart and Mind Change”

When You Find Yourself in a Dark Hole, Start Digging

When You Find Yourself in a Dark Hole, Start Digging

When you’re in a dark hole, it can feel like there is a loss of hope, but you can dig yourself out with some wisdom and encouragement.

It was a hole that I had fallen into. I was in a deep dark hole where the sun didn’t seem to reach.

That is what a mental illness can be like—All-consuming, overwhelming, and a  ‘blocking out’ of the reality of anything possibly being different. The fog bank is all-consuming.

I was in a hole, but I was not alone. Alongside though were bible characters who had also been in a similar place. Elijah, Moses, David, Jonah, Jeremiah, Job, Naomi, Paul, Peter, Judas, to name the ones that we know of that had emotional struggles. Even Jesus struggled with his dark night of anguish and a time when the sun refused to shine.

God handed me a spade and encouraged me to start digging. Continue reading “When You Find Yourself in a Dark Hole, Start Digging”

You’re so angry and it’s going to help you

You're so angry and it's going to help you

Why you get so angry can give a clear direction about who you truly are. It’s a matter of the heart. Your anger can indicate what you hold most dear.

As they became more whole, the anger started to simmer, then boil, and then it flowed over the containment of their life. It was, in a frightening way, beautiful and needed to happen.

Anger can be highly destructive. But flowing out without constraint can damage and burn. We all have this capacity to pour out our emotions of being hurt, mistreated, abused.

Some of the deepest hurts come from those we are in the closest relationship to. Those who we would hope and expect to know our hearts are often the ones who will not listen and show love and respect to our tender places.

I think of the patterns we set up so young to defend that tender heart. A little bruise, and a little slight, and we begin to build a fortress.

‘No one is ever going to hurt me again like that.’  Continue reading “You’re so angry and it’s going to help you”

Can anything good come from this?

Can anything good come from this nazareth

Can anything good come out of that time, place, or person? Only if we take a risk and explore. We are invited to ‘come and see.’ 

I was raised on a farm near a small town called Wellsford. In fact, my ancestors settled there in the 1860s, migrating from England. Through this town and the middle of our farm, a very busy road ran, taking traffic to one of the poorer areas of New Zealand, Northland.

It was also the route to some of the most beautiful beaches and summer holiday spots we have.

My little town was a place you mostly went through or stopped off for refreshments (amusingly, that’s how it’s still referred to on tourism websites).

It was also a place where many decided to leave. If you wanted to advance and get a better education or work, then you had to leave.  Continue reading “Can anything good come from this?”

When You Have to Handle Criticism

When You Have to Handle Criticism

Criticism can hurt, bruise and extinguish our hearts, but learning how to handle criticism can build new strength and resilience.

I could see the hope drain out of him as I watched both the subtle and not so subtle criticisms land upon him.

I was in a meeting with a guy I was supporting, and we were problem-solving.

Every solution he suggested was shot down. It was one little cat scratch after another. He would say a few words, and the critic would speak five hundred back.

The poor guy, I thought. I wondered what it was like when he was alone with this woman. No wonder he was depressed, anxious, and stuck.

Criticism can strangle a heart till it gives up and doesn’t try anymore. The words of a critic start to be believed as a truth in your own being. Your inner critic starts negating you. You’re on a downward spiral.  Continue reading “When You Have to Handle Criticism”

The One Thing to Remember when the Emotional Pain is too much

The One Thing to Remember when the Emotional Pain is too much

Emotional pain can bump our lives into behaviors that can hurt us further. But we can make a change by learning to listen to the pain, where it’s sourced, and what it wants us to do.

He was in pain. I could see it, feel it, and totally understand it. I couldn’t take his emotional pain away, but I did want him to know one thing.

She was also was in pain. In everything she said and did, there was an expression of emotional pain. I wanted her to know this one thing. Continue reading “The One Thing to Remember when the Emotional Pain is too much”

Four steps to Build A New Trust

Four steps to Build A New Trust

Trust can get broken so easily, but we can build a new trust by cognitively reassessing our situations.  It takes time and effort, but it is worth it.

There was a rebuilding that needed to happen. It was a rebuilding of trust in themselves and with others.

Somewhere, some time, every one of us is going to have our trust broken. We live with an expectation that certain things will happen the way we believe they will happen. The rules won’t get broken. That the promises made will be kept.

But trust gets broken in many different areas of our lives. Continue reading “Four steps to Build A New Trust”